Meet the River Heads
A GENIUS SOLUTION FOR THE L TRAIN SHUTDOWN (THINK VENICE)
Youngjin Yi and Dillon Pranger wowed judges at the Van Alen Institute. Next stop: the MTA
By LAUREN MORIARTY
As the world now knows, the L Train shuts down for repairs in January 2019…for 18 months! Anticipating commuter despair, the Van Alen Institute, a urban-design nonprofit, asked engineers and designers to submit out-of-the box solutions. The winning proposal came from Youngjin Yi and Dillon Pranger, a couple (she’s an engineer with Buro Happold and he’s an architectural designer with Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates) who met in graduate school and live and work in New York City.
Yi and Pranger’s wonderfully simple idea, a combination of vaporettos and rail travel, was inspired by a trip they took to Venice. A commuter train will bring in passengers along a stretch of the Long Island Rail Road track, finishing in Bushwick; from there, riders will catch a water bus that will run from Newton Creek to Manhattan. “We don’t want people to have to switch five times between bus to train to bike,” says Pranger. The couple is working with the Van Alen Institute to refine their idea. In the meantime, the Van Alen Institute, they say, is scheduling meetings with members of the MTA and DOT to present the results of the competition.
We caught up with the Brooklyn-based couple to chat about their thoughts on the East River, ferries, shopping, and where to get the best iced coffee in Williamsburg.
What’s Your Dream for the East River?
I would love to see the East River being a swimmable waterfront where people can actually engage with the water. I think that’s one thing a lot of people in Manhattan either forget or don’t realize. Because we can’t engage with it, a lot of people feel like they’re miles from the ocean, says Pranger.
What’s the best way for that to happen?
Money! Both Pranger and Yi emphasize how important it is for the city to invest in continuing clean up of the waterfront and the East River itself. Cleaner water would transform the river into what they call “an interactive asset.”
What do you think of the ferry expansion plan?
It’s got amazing potential, the couple agrees. If done well, it will get New Yorkers down to the edges of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. It will make the River more easily accessible. It will create an interactive, above ground experience for commuters. A word of advice for the new operators: Coordinate ferry schedules with the subways, buses and other modes of transportation.
So, when you are by the East River, where do you go for a break?
Sweet Leaf, at 135 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn. They have great iced coffee.
What about shopping? What’s your favorite store?
The book store, performance, and events space, Powerhouse Bookstore, 37 Main Street, Brooklyn
What is your UrbanCoast Weekend routine?
Bike ride and then drinks at our favorite beer pub, The Well, 272 Meserole Street, in Bushwick.
What are you reading right now?
The Build by Robert Hoekman Jr.
“It’s about custom built motorcycles. We’re trying to design one to build on our own,” says Yi. “It’s a slow burn background hobby.”
What about some books on the history of the river and its shoreline?
The Measure of Manhattan: The Tumultuous Career and Surprising Legacy of John Randel, Jr., Cartographer, Surveyor, Inventor by Marguerite Holloway
The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811-2011 by Hilary Ballon
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
What’s the last movie you watched?
Pulp Fiction. Right now, we’re into cult classic directors, says Dillon.
What are you listening to?
I’ve been listening to Buffalo Springfield on repeat for the past two weeks, say Pranger.
I just recently brought my high school CD collection to the office, says Yin. Weezer’s blue album has been on repeat, which is probably something I shouldn’t admit.
Looking for more things to do around the East River? UrbanCoast.nyc